HARRISBURG – The Senate voted today to preserve access to ventilator and tracheostomy care for hundreds of patients in Pennsylvania, according to the bill’s sponsors, Senators Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Dan Laughlin (R-49).
Senate Bill 959 would dedicate additional Medicaid funding to facilities that serve a substantial number of patients who require ventilator or tracheostomy care. Roughly 700 patients in Pennsylvania receive Medicaid-covered ventilator or tracheostomy care in a nursing home in any given month, but that number could climb even higher in the months ahead due to COVID-19.
Medicaid currently does not reimburse providers for all of the additional expenses that ventilator and tracheostomy patients incur, including specialized equipment, supplies and staff costs.
“Nursing homes and other facilities that offer ventilator care have already taken a serious financial hit from COVID-19, and they are fighting every day to get the supplies and funding they need to keep residents safe. They need our support more than ever to preserve critical services for some of our state’s most vulnerable patients,” Bartolotta said. “It is extremely important for us to ensure patients can continue to rely on these services at a time when our entire state needs it most.”
Many providers face the prospect of limiting or eliminating services for these patients. One of the largest providers of these services in Pennsylvania filed for bankruptcy even before the COVID-19 pandemic reached Pennsylvania.
Without action to help providers, patients could be forced to travel long distances to one of the dwindling number of nursing homes that offer these services, or receive care in a hospital, where the daily cost of care is roughly four times higher than in a nursing home.
“The new reality of a Pennsylvania engaged in a war against COVID-19 has only amplified the need to maintain – if not increase – the availability of ventilator care in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Laughlin. “Each day, the Department of Health COVID-19 update includes a running tally of the percentage of ventilators available to care for those stricken by this deadly virus. No one ever imagined this would be the case last fall when Senate Bill 959 was introduced. However, this pandemic has put an exclamation point on the need to ensure adequate funding is available for ventilator and tracheostomy services in our Commonwealth.”
The bill would provide an additional reimbursement for facilities that treat a large percentage of patients who require this highly specialized care. Currently, just 13 facilities in Pennsylvania treat more than 300 of the state’s 700 patients who require these services.
The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Watch Senator Bartolotta’s comments
Watch Senator Laughlin’s comments